When Fear Rules !

Trapped by Fear

by on Apr.09, 2011, under Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Agoraphobia and OCD, STOPPING ABUSE

I remember a situation where a young lady that I had worked with in the past had contacted me again because she was experiencing a set-back where her panic attacks were returning with a vengeance, worse than ever. At first, she was just so overwhelmed and disappointed by her symptoms that I knew she could not even hear what I was saying. But, I allowed her to vent as i knew she needed to, then I began asking some probing questions.

As I listened, I recalled that she had become, for the most part, agoraphobic, very infrequently leaving her apartment. I recalled that she was living near her parents, and due to her anxiety, was somewhat dependent on them financially. She was in conflict with them as they would foster her dependency on them and yet embarrass her with comments that she should be out there on her own. I could see many co-dependency issues at the time where the mother, being unhappy in her marriage, wanted to keep her daughter close.

I thought about past sessions where she would be in such conflict over a boyfriend who was actually very psychologically controlling and was manipulating in order to have her dependent on him sexually.

When I had last talked with her, she had been taking on-line schooling and had an online job, Great steps toward gaining some financial security, but at the same time, making it terribly convenient for her to not have to leave her apartment, her comfort zone.

She dared to dream of being independent. She even cut off communications with the intrusive boyfriend, a huge step after all he did to create dependency of her on him.

Her panic attacks subsided.She was at least feeling some direction and hope.

I could see, as i listened to her, that as expected, her isolating herself had left her vulnerable still to her anxieties. She had become comfortably uncomfortable with her situation, but realized she was still trapped. The job did not pay enough for her to be on her own, the parents were still creating conflict with their mixed messages, and the ex-boyfriend, if one would call him a friend at all, was calling and texting her. In response to the latter, she was not answering his calls or responding to his texts, but she did hear and read his comments. Feeling very lonely, she imagined somehow it might be different this time with him, but then reality would hit and she would remember the pain he caused so often, and how he used her.

However, in her mind, this did not have anything to do with her panic. She was not in that relationship anymore, and her parents were just who they were and would never change.

And then she said that she cannot do anything about any of these issues because of the anxiety and panic. And my response was, you cannot stop the panic until you trust yourself to do something about those issues and conflicts.
The reality was that the panic attacks began again AFTER she started getting calls and e-mails from him. Besides the need to take steps to become less dependent on her parents and her need to have a plan for her life, she needed to trust herself that she would not be vulnerable to this man again. In truth, the one thing that kept her from letting him back in was her PAIN. I asked her one simple question. “If you were free of your panic attacks and any significant anxiety, would you be tempted to go back to him?” She responded, yes !

So, in truth, she was subconsciously creating the panic to prevent herself from forgetting the pain that he created and that she had been so vulnerable to. This is an example of a hidden agenda, a cause for anxiety and panic, where we do not trust ourselves to do what we need to do to protect ourselves, so we use our symptoms, our pain, to create a detour.

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